Carne Asada with Anaheim Chili Sauce

We love Mexican food.  But I’m the one that loves the heat the most.  Not so much that I can’t taste the food, but enough to get my guys to say, “It’s spicy,” after they’ve taken only one bite.  I generally tell them to suck it up and keep eating, that it’s an acquired taste and if they keep an open mind, they’ll get to the point that they can keep up with me.

So when I happened onto a conversation about grilling and “Barbeque” at Great Cooks Community in the Barbecue College group, it was easy to join in the debate about whether using propane constitutes real grilling.  Jerry of Cooking by the Seat of My Pants said, “No problem,” when I said, “Saddle up, dude, and we’ll find out.”  I’m always good for a debate even if it’s about apples and oranges which I think this is.  No, not grilling apples and oranges — debating whether using propane vs charcoal vs wood is best.  They’re all different methods of the same thing, allowing the cook to explore different options.

So with my new Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen cookbook in hand that I finally splurged for a few weeks ago, and a propane BBQ out on the patio, I was ready to roll…erm…grill.  Sans my husband, of course.  He was still buried at work, and I figured I could somewhat live without my sous chef on this one.  After all, how difficult is it to turn a knob on our grill?

Evidently, more difficult than I thought.  The plan was to delve into Bayless’ recipes (and a few others  as well…)throughout the entire week, with one recipe leading to the next, whether focusing on a dry rub, or type of salsa, or a slow grilled roast. It would be quite the tasty experiment.

Sounds great, right?

Well, I only got as far as the carne asada the first night, freezing left overs for later use.  The next day, slow grilled boneless “country style” ribs were planned right up to the part where the barbeque wouldn’t light.  Apparently, we were out of propane.  And because I didn’t feel like dragging out the small Weber we keep around for outings, I ended up cooking inside that night.  Not one to throw in the towel where food is concerned, I also thawed a gorgeous six pound rib eye roast I had delicious plans for.  So I took the time to go to Home Depot to get a new canister of propane.

I brought it home, we hooked it up, and guess what?

It was empty.  I paid for an empty canister of propane.  I know.  I should have been paying attention.

So there was no roast at that point.  I decided to put it back in the fridge until the next day, then put it in the oven with some salt and pepper late one night, long after a ridiculously busy day at work.  At least it would be cooked, and then I could refrigerate it to be used for a couple of dinners later in the week.

Can you hear the violins accompanying my sad story?  Jeez.  We still haven’t gotten around to returning the canister to The Home Depot to inquire about why they sell empties to trusting foodies.

In the meantime, I do actually have a recipe for you, and over the next few days, I’ll do my best to put them up just to prove I actually had a plan.  Maybe in the meantime, I’ll drag out that little Weber and throw some Hickory in it.  It all depends on whether I can light the wood.

 Grilled Steak with Anaheim Chili Sauce

Carne Asada al Chilacas


3 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
8 California Chili Pods (Anaheim or New Mexico) *see below
1/2 tsp. Mexican oregano
1/8 tsp. freshly coarse ground pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
1-3/4 c. beef broth
2 T olive oil
3/4 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1-1/2 tsp. vinegar
Thin sliced beef
1/2 large sweet white onion, sliced into rings


  1. Place whole cloves of garlic in a skillet on medium heat, occasionally tossing until skin is blackened on all sides.  Set aside to cool, and then peel.
  2. Remove tops from chilis and slice them lengthwise, opening them up.  Press down into a skillet over medium heat until aromatic and a bit smoky. Flip over and do same on the other side.  Remove from skillet to a medium sized bowl and pour very hot water over all, covering.  Let hydrate for about 20 to 30 minutes.  Discard soaking liquid when done.
  3. Combine oregano, pepper and cumin in the bowl of a food processor and add the chilies, garlic, and about one fourth of the broth.  Process until smooth.  Using a fine mesh strainer positioned over a bowl, push the puree through the mesh until a smooth, silky sauce is left.  Discard the solids. You should have about 1 cup of sauce to work with.
  4. Pour the olive oil into a skillet and heat, then add the puree, stirring until it is very thick and paste-like.  Stir in the rest of the broth and simmer for at least 30 minutes.  Taste and add as much of the sugar and salt as needed to balance flavor.  Add the vinegar and stir.
  5. Place meat on a baking sheet lined with foil and spread sauce over both sides.  You shouldn’t have any left.  Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but not more than two hours.
  6. Heat the grill until medium hot.  Toss the onion slices in some oil and season, either spreading  around the meat directly on the grill, or in a basket where they can be tossed until soft and beginning to brown.
  7. The steaks cook very quickly, so keep an eye on them.  Serve with the grilled onions alongside.

Recipe Notes

  • If you’re not familiar with chilies, basically, for every fresh chili, there is a dried version with a different name.  So for example, a jalapeno fresh (whether green or red) is called a chipotle when dried.  Fresh poblano chilies are called anchos when dried.  So it can get confusing!  The chilies I use most, both fresh and dried are what I call Green Chilies, or are also referred to as California or Anaheim chilies.  When I grill chilies, the big, long, thin bright green ones are the best.  Their heat is extremely mild, and they’re great in all sorts of dishes just to add flavor.
  • The original recipe calls for twice the ingredients and using only part of the resulting sauce to serve alongside the meat.  I didn’t have enough, and worked just about as hard as I could to squeeze out every last bit of sauce out of my chilis, constantly scraping sauce from the underside of the strainer.
  • To gather even half the amount of chilies this recipe called for, I cleaned out my cupboard, throwing in whatever I had, and needing to open a can of chipotles in adobo as well.  The majority of the chilies are the Anaheims, but a few chilies de arbol may have found their way into the sauce.  Sorry, but I can’t find my notes!  The key is to get to the 2 oz. of chilies in which ever combination you’d like.  Experiment and have fun.  Just know which ones will deliver the heat, or you won’t be able to eat the sauce.  If you use canned chipotles in adobo at all, know that the mixture will be spicy.  Like I said — experiment!
  • The sauce has a pleasant, deep smoky taste and is on the spicy side.  The meat absorbs most of the heat, so no worries if you’re not one who likes very spicy food.
  • Notice there’s nearly no oil in this “marinade” which is very nice.
  • We roasted sweet potato chunks and yellow zucchini  to serve with this, and I made a simple salsa of tomatoes, avocado, red onions, cilantro and lime.  It’s your choice about whether to  wrap it all up burrito style or not.


Next up:  Grilled Pork